Ex-Twitter Blue chief on Musk’s ‘lack of process’ and impulsive management style

Esther Crawford, the former head of Twitter Blue, wrote a long post on X, the social network formerly known as Twitter, talking about the old management, working under Elon Musk and going viral for sleeping on the floor in the office.

Crawford, who joined Twitter in 2020 after the company acquired her social startup Squad, said that the old management was often bureaucratic and you “needed to be a politician” to get things done.

“As someone with a maniacal sense of urgency built into me, Twitter often felt siloed and bureaucratic. Dumb power plays, reorgs and team name changes for the sake of someone’s ego were distractions that occurred too regularly,” she said.

“Management had become bloated to accommodate career growth and the company culture felt too soft and entitled for my own taste. Healthy debate and criticism were replaced by a default refrain of ‘no, that can’t be done’ or ‘Another team owns that so don’t touch it.’”

Crawford highlighted an incident saying that a teammate had to go through multiple levels of approval just to reach out to some creators. She said that experiences like this often burnt out people.

She also said that when Twitter was waiting for the Musk acquisition deal to be completed, the company leadership “hid behind lawyers and legal language” to answer questions about the social network’s future.

Working with Elon Musk

The former Twitter exec said that she was “cautiously optimistic” about Twitter when Musk took over. Crawford added that she sensed the Tesla CEO was going to make some smart and some stupid decisions.

“I made peace with the fact that I didn’t have psychological safety at Twitter 2.0 and that meant I could be fired at any moment, and for no reason at all. I watched it happen repeatedly and saw how negatively it impacted team morale. Although I couldn’t change the situation I did my best to shine a light on folks who were doing important work while being an emotionally supportive leader for those who were struggling to adapt to the more brutalist and hardcore culture,” Crawford said.

In person, Elon is oddly charming and he’s genuinely funny. He also has personality quirks like telling the same stories and jokes over and over. The challenge is his personality and demeanor can turn on a dime going from excited to angry. Since it was hard to read what mood he might be in and what his reaction would be to any given thing, people quickly became afraid of being called into meetings or having to share negative news with him.”

The former Squad CEO said that Musk was just following his gut instinct or trusted “random feedback” more than people on the inside. She noted that Musk would ask for product advice from a friend and even his biographer (Walter Isaacson). Additionally, she said while his passion and storytelling ability is inspiring, Musk’s lack of process and empathy is painful.

Crawford said that Musk looked like a lonely person because he spent so much time working. Plus, he was surrounded by people who always agreed with him.

“Living in an echo chamber is dangerous and being at the top makes a person even more susceptible to being surrounded by yes people when nearly everyone around you is on the payroll and somehow stands to benefit from being in your orbit. Figuring out how to keep ‘better angels’ around in the form of family, friends, and teammates is critical to staying on the rails and enduring intense ups and downs. Everyone needs to hear hard truths sometimes and if you fire all the people who speak up then the reality distortion field may just turn into a vortex,” she wrote.

Sleeping in the office

In November, Crawford went viral when a co-worker tweeted a photo — which is now deleted — of her sleeping in the office. She quoted that photo by saying, “When your team is pushing round the clock to make deadlines sometimes you #SleepWhereYouWork.” This came up even at the time when she was laid off from the company in February.

Crawford said that this simply happened because her team was trying to meet a tough deadline.

“The real story is pretty simple. I was given a nearly impossible deadline for his first project and as the product lead, I would never ask anyone to do anything I wasn’t willing to do myself. So I worked round the clock alongside an amazing team spanning many time zones, and we delivered it on schedule – truly against the odds. It was intense but also fun,” she said.

About the current situation of Twitter/X, Crawford said she wouldn’t bet against Musk because he’s smart and has “enough money to make a lot of mistakes.”

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